It has been a while since D (of Conversations with the Uninitiated fame) has commented upon my running, but true to form he felt compelled to ensure that I remain grounded and understood some basic ground rules before attempting the Great Glen Ultra, my longest race to date.
Saturday 21st June was the longest day in so many ways; and be warned this is going to be a long post. It was of course West Highland Race day meaning that a not insignificant number of people were set to have a very long day either running, crewing for a runner, or supporting the infrastructure of the event. I have to say at this point that the event was a logistical tour-de-force.
The Great Glen Ultra is a big milestone for me, although you would not have realised it based upon my cool, calm demeanour and rather relaxed training schedule. It has, however, rather crept up on me, and typically, now a little over two weeks before the event, I am having a bit of a wobble and my inner chimp is chattering away furiously.
In just over a week I will be supporting a friend who is running the West Highland Way Race. This is another rite of passage for me as a runner.
I have always been a solo runner, and have for some reason been pondering over the fact recently.
There is however a serious side to this. It would be fair to say that the majority of runners experience injury at some point in their running life, and I think that all runners, especially long-distance runners expect to be injured at some point.
There were demons to be slain at this year’s Hoka Highland Fling. I have been open and frank about my experience last year and the wake -up call that it gave me in terms of my preparations for Antarctica, especially in terms of managing hydration and food; knowing how much I need and what I can take and what my body will tolerate. A very different runner toed the start line this year: more experienced; leaner, fitter, stronger, apparently faster based upon my recent D33 time and with nutrition sorted (or so I thought).
As I taper into my 2nd attempt at the Hoka Highland Fling I find myself in an odd place both mentally and physically. To be fair a lot of this will be the effects of the taper: the whole idle body and idle mind just finding things to fixate on and worry about. A short easy run suddenly becomes very hard and niggle laden, your brain starts to dwell on the memories of last year’s fairly disastrous run, and the recent unexpectedly hard training runs on the route. How do you stem those negative thoughts and remain positive and dismiss the self-fulfilling disaster prophesy?
There is a sentiment that is much used in Scotland: that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing decisions. There was no room for bad choices or decisions when it came to kitting myself out for the Antarctic Odyssey. Helly Hansen stepped up to the challenge and agreed to sponsor my kit
In recent months and blog posting I have devoted a lot of thought and spoken about the life changing effect of my Antarctic Odyssey and pondered on what the future holds for me. There is with no doubt a legacy, and an on-going Odyssey and my recent participation in the D33 marked the first step of the next stage of my journey.
In the past year I have learned quite a lot. So, in no particular order, here is a light-hearted and not too deep look at some of the things I have learned.
As it transpired our delay turned out to be an additional 5 days at the Union Glacier camp as successive weather fronts moved in over the continent from the sea.
It has taken me a while to write this entry, but I wanted to do it justice and so have waited until I felt ready and there was enough quiet time available to write. This was perhaps one of the most amazing and influential days of my life.
This was a much needed rest day, especially as I was getting virtually no sleep. It had been -10 in the tent overnight, and I have to say, a pretty miserable night. As ever, after a marathon, there was a lot of adrenalin still in my system; that always makes sleep a challenge, but then add the light and the cold and it was a recipe for an uncomfortable night.
The sunshine, clear blue skies and reflected heat of the sun of the previous day had disappeared, it was cloudy with a light wind and sporadic snow shows. The cloud lay heavy over the hills and visibility was slightly reduced: rather like home really.
I stood looking at the things that were laid out on the bed: thermal base layer, mid layer of ski pants and warm top and 2 pairs of merino socks; a double layer beanie, down jacket, liner gloves, fleece gloves and down mitts, sunglasses, sun block and lip screen; snow boots.
15th – 16th November, Travelling Travelling from 13.20 – 18.20, a total of 29 hours travelling: that was tough and tiring, not to mention dehydrating.
After the heart stopping realisation en route to the airport that I had forgotten to lift my MP3 player, which required an about turn followed by a speedier rather more frantic drive than intended to the airport, my journey to Punta Arenas was uneventful.
Cheese alert: this is where I come over all sentimental, gushy even. It is my Sally Field, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet moment.
Before I head off on my epic adventure at the end of the world I want to say thank-you for all of the support that I have had so far.